For the past generation or so, the main point of discussion regarding basketball shorts has been their length. Once upon a time, shorts were, well, short. Then, thanks to the Fab Five, Michael Jordan, and some cross-polination from the world of street fashion, shorts got longer and baggier.
But there's a new trend in basketball shorts. And while it's tangentially related to the shorts' length, there's more to it than that.
Here's the deal: An increasing number of college hoops players are rolling down their shorts' waistbands. It's an easy phenomenon to spot because it usually exposes the shorts' drawstrings, which are normally concealed on the inner band. In some cases, the inside-out waistband also exposes a tag on the back. You can decide for yourself whether this looks ridiculous or cool. Either way, more and more players are doing it.
But why are they doing it? Is it to make the shorts shorter? A style thing? Something else?
"It's all of that, actually," said Manhattan guard Donovan Kates, who began rolling his waistband this year. "I do it to make the shorts a little shorter, but I also just like the way it looks. It makes the waistband feel a little thicker, more supportive. And I guess I'm a little funny because I like my shorts a little shorter." After Kates started doing it, two of his Manhattan teammates -- Emmy Andujar and Rich Williams -- joined the band-rolling bandwagon.
The situation is similar at Temple, where guard Will Cummings began flipping his waistband last season. This season he has been joined by a bunch of his teammates, including Josh Brown and Obi Enechionyia.
"I started doing it because my shorts were too big," Cummings said. "Then I kept doing it, even after I got new shorts. I kinda felt it was just, you know, what I did. You could say it was my swagger. Actually, I didn't do it for the first two games of this season, but I didn't feel right. So for third game I flipped it over and went back to my old ways. It's kind of the mentality of it -- when you flip the waistband over, that's when you get into game mode."
Who else is rolling their own? Here are some of the players who've been on Uni Watch's waistband radar this season, although there are almost certainly many others out there (click on the players' names to see their band-rolling styles):
Assuming those players are relatively representative of the larger band-rolling trend, two things are evident. First, most of these players began band-rolling because they felt their shorts were too long. So the pendulum may be swinging back toward shorter shorts.
Second, it's worth noting that six of the nine schools on that chart are outfitted by Under Armour. By interesting coincidence, Under Armour shorts have the company's branding on the inner band, while Nike shorts do not (a rare deviation from Nike's usual practice of slapping a swoosh on every available surface). All of which raises a question: Are players on Under Armour teams more inclined to flip their waistbands because they like to flash the company's logo? Is band-rolling also brand-rolling for these players?
"Yeah, yeah, definitely," said Kates, the Manhattan guard, when asked about this. "I think it looks pretty cool." This sentiment was echoed by Cummings, the Temple guard. Under Armour declined to comment, but the company presumably enjoys the added brand exposure.
While band-rolling is most prevalent in the college ranks, it also has been showing up elsewhere. At least one NBA player has been doing it this season: Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Mike Miller. "It's just something I wanted to try and felt comfortable with," he said. "I think being comfortable, confident and feeling good is important for anyone, and this is just some small part of that equation for me."
Meanwhile, there are also reports of band-rolling showing up at the high school and youth league levels. When the topic recently came up on the Uni Watch blog, one reader posted a comment: "My 12-year-old does this, and so do a bunch of his teammates. There's no real reason for it -- it's just one of those silly fashion trends that kids do." Another reader said his wife coaches a girls' team and had to initiate a band-rolling ban "because it was starting to get out of hand."
The question now is whether band-rolling will continue if uniform manufacturers start responding to players' requests for shorter shorts. Wouldn't that basically render band-rolling moot?
Kates, the Manhattan guard, agrees that he probably wouldn't need to keep flipping his waistband if that happened -- but he might keep doing it anyway. "I like doing it, because it kinda makes it, like, just perfect, you know?" he says. "It's just right."
Paul Lukas never thought he'd spend this much time scrutinizing basketball players' midriffs. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.